Framework fundamentals

The Leading Change Toolkit™ features two implementation frameworks. Below is a general overview of what implementation frameworks are, and how they can support your change initiative.

What are frameworks?

A framework is a condensed review of the research on a phenomenon and its properties. They represent interrelated factors, concepts, and variables that make up a phenomenon, and can advance our understanding of the phenomenon. Frameworks can be: 

  • graphical (for example, a figure, table, or other visual representation)
  • narrative or written

One example of a framework: a description of how to implement a practice change in a health-care setting.

Frameworks can organize, structure, or describe information and relationships between concepts.  Implementation frameworks in particular can be helpful in providing guidance to the different implementation and evidence uptake processes used in various settings.

SOURCES: Heale & Noble, 2019; Nilsen, 2020.

What is the purpose of frameworks?

Frameworks represent a structure, overview, outline, system, or plan that consists of various concepts, constructs or variables. Frameworks also describe the relations between the concepts, constructs and variables presumed to play a role in a phenomenon (Sabatier, 2007).

Frameworks do not explain why a phenomenon is happening. They only describe the various concepts, constructs or variables of the phenomenon by fitting them into a set of categories (Nilsen, 2020).

What role do frameworks have in helping teams change practices?

Frameworks provide structure that: 

  • guides efforts for practice change
  • provides a shared language to familiarize stakeholders who are part of the change initiative
  • helps set up guidelines for planning, implementing, and evaluating real-world change initiatives (Moullin et al., 2020)

What are the differences between theories, models and frameworks?

Theories describe or explain what influences the outcomes of practice change initiatives. They usually explain how and why specific relationships lead to specific events. For instance, Rogers' Diffusion of Innovations theory (1962) explains how an idea or practice change gains momentum over time and spreads through a specific population or setting.

Models describe and can guide the process of mobilizing evidence into practice. For example, the Knowledge-to-Action Framework (KTA; Graham et al., 2006) is essentially a process model that outlines phases from discovery and production of evidence to implementation and use of evidence in various settings. For instance, the KTA phase "Adapt knowledge to local context" guides users in deciding how a new practice can be used or delivered in their local setting. This phase also helps users consider the implications of introducing the practice change within that context.

Even though the KTA framework is a process model in nature, it is also considered a "framework" because it includes multiple, dynamic and interactive factors that influence the uptake of evidence in practice.

Frameworks describe the concepts, constructs and factors involved in a phenomenon. Frameworks that can be used to mobilize change, such as the SMA Framework (Grinspun et al., 2020; Leading change through social movement), describe key elements that are hypothesized or have been found to influence social movement actions that occur in various settings. For instance, the SMA framework precondition, "Change is valued and necessary" is an important characteristic that underlies all social movements.

Examples of applying the frameworks to your change initiative

We provide two examples to support your understanding of each framework.